In the last week of September I arrived at Bryngwyn Manor in Monmouthshire for a 5 day gardening course with Dean Peckett. Dean has a wealth of gardening experience including senior positions at RHS Wisley and RHS Harlow Carr, and he managed the private garden of Fort Belvedere, part of the Crown Estate. Having been on one of his day courses previously, I knew also that he has an infectious enthusiasm for horticulture, and that a week in his company would be a great learning opportunity.
This intensive course covered a wide range of topics including advice on the selection and use of garden tools (with the opportunity to rejuvenate our own secateurs), pruning and propagation, constructing hazel supports, making compost, growing veg and maintaining fruit trees. We also discussed general garden planning and the selection of plants with Dean’s list of favourites.
The extensive grounds of Bryngwyn Manor were an ideal site for the course, providing us with an orchard, woodlands, perennial beds and a walled garden to demonstrate each topic. We were warmly welcomed by the owner Louise Maunder, who gave us a tour with a potted history of the house and gardens, as well as keeping us nourished with the most delicious home cooked meals and freshly baked cakes each day.
Practical tasks included plant division practice on agapanthus, and, when the rain showers got the better of us, we retreated indoors by the wood-burner for hardwood propagation practice and to pot up our choice of bulbs. Dean ensured that each session was tailored to our individual needs with ample time set aside for us to put our own garden queries to him. We were also given an illustrated booklet packed with Dean’s tips on everything from wildflower meadows to pruning wisteria, and with a useful month-by-month list of garden jobs.
By the end of the week a few of us commented on the whole experience as being more of a horticultural retreat than a course, thanks to the warm generosity of both Dean and Louise. Dean’s passion for gardening was truly inspiring, with an emphasis on the joy it can bring when approached with a sense of wonder and a willingness to observe.
Bryngwyn Manor’s gardens are open by arrangement and Louise is hosting a range of Dean’s courses, both for the NGS. Thanks hugely to the WFGA for a Christine Ladley bursary enabling me to attend this course, as well as for the WRAGS scheme, a life-changing experience which I also benefitted from last year.